Flugelman influenced a generation of artists

The death of Bert Flugelman will be mourned by many in the Illawarra arts community, but his legacy will live on through his many prominent steel sculptures.

The 90-year-old artist, who made the soaring Mount Keira steel structure commemorating early experiments with flight in the Illawarra, died surrounded by friends and family at his Bowral home on Tuesday.

He was born in Austria in 1923 and came to Australia as a teenager.

He studied at the National Art School, then taught, worked and travelled around the world before moving to the University of Wollongong in 1984.

In 1995 he received an honorary doctorate from the university and two years later he was given an Emeritus Award by the Australia Council.

Dr Flugelman's renowned stainless steel sculpture, Winged Figure, at the foot of Mount Keira pays homage to the history of flight in the region.

A portrait of Dr Flugelman by his close friend 93-year-old Southern Highlands painter Guy Warren won the Archibald Prize in 1985.

Other Flugelman art works on display in Wollongong include the stainless steel Spiral and Wave outside Wollongong City Gallery as well as Gateway to Mount Keira - a curvy stainless steel structure affectionately nicknamed the toaster element or devil's bike rack by UOW students who walk under it on the way to class.

UOW arts professor Amanda Lawson said she and her colleagues were saddened to hear of Dr Flugelman's death but heartened that he had visited the campus just ten days before his death.

"It really is a great loss, but a great opportunity to reflect on what he did bring to us," Professor Lawson said.

"We were very happy to have seen him on the campus several times in the last year."

"He always had that twinkle in his eye [and] was just such a wonderfully kind and humorous and intelligent person."

Three of Dr Flugelman's former students - Derek Kreckler, Jacky Redgate and Penny Harris - are senior visual arts lecturers at UOW.

Wollongong City Gallery program director John Monteleone called Dr Flugelman one of Australia's "premier artists", noting his sculptures can be seen in public spaces in many of the country's capital cities.

His other well-known works include Cones in the sculpture garden of the National Gallery in Canberra, giant silver balls called The Spheres displayed in Adelaide's Rundle Mall and Pyramid Tower in Sydney, known by many as the silver shish kebab.

Mr Monteleone said the sculptor had influenced generations of artists in the Illawarra and around Australia.

"He had a wry sense of humour which sometimes found its way into his art and was passionate about making art accessible to everyone," Mr Monteleone said.

"Bert was a strong supporter of the arts in this area and will be missed by the many students and friends he made."

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